Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Race Recap: NYC Half 2013

Well, folks, I completed my 8th half marathon on Sunday. Wow. Let's let that sink in for a second. Eight. 

The 2013 New York City Half Marathon was a day of ups and downs...highs and lows...cold and frigid...drunk and more drunk. But more on that later. Let's start from the very beginning...

On Friday, my co-worker and friend Sarah and I went over to the Expo.

This was Sarah's very first Half Marathon (yeah!), and therefore her very first expo! She got the pleasure of witnessing me hemorrhage cash for running gear that I really really needed!

Obviously I needed more BondiBands to add to my absurdly large collection of sweat-collecting (yet also amusing!) headgear. I chose two that I felt suited me well. 

First (in black as shown):

Source: www.Bondiband.com (I'm a lil' prettier)
Second (in a light pink):
Source: www.Bondiband.com (And is a totally accurate phrase.)
I also added a second pair of CEP compression sleeves to my wardrobe in order to have a second in the rotation. I also only had white before and OBVIOUSLY I needed hot pink. Clearly.

So we got our bibs, we got the goods, and we went our separate ways. Saturday I relaxed, stretched, and carbo-loaded with some of my favorite ladies (such supportive friends that they even carbo-loaded with me!) But the entire day I was feeling a bit "bleh." Could it have been because I drank heavily on Thursday? Perhaps. Could it have been that I didn't stretch nearly enough the past 7 weeks since Miami? Most likely. Either way I was feeling sore and tight and not necessarily in tip-top shape.

The weather forecast continued to show a steadily plummeting temperature for Sunday morning. Awesome. I went to bed full of yummy pasta and calm...but not feeling that same buzz of nervous, positive energy I usually experience on Race-Eve.

Let's not mince words. Sunday morning was way too cold. I know some crazy people out there think it's soooo much fun to run in sub-freezing temps and to them I say:

Photo stolen from http://health.howstuffworks.com

I got dressed from head to toe ready for the "Real Feel" of 24 degrees Fahrenheit as Weather.com suggested.

And then I was out the door to meet Sarah and her husband for the walk over to the starting line in Central Park.

Sarah and I in the park, shivering, before we got in our respective corrals. I look like the devil and Sarah looks absolutely terrified. As she should be! Your first half is a BIG DEAL!

Before I go on to tell my tale, I'll let you know that Sarah not only completed her first Half, but she rocked it with a time of 2:12:14 (yeah I stalked you on nyrr.com...what!?) This took me years to accomplish. And so, Sarah, you should know that in the depths of my heart, I truly hate you.

Just kidding, Sarah! (or am I...) I'm so proud of you! (or am I...)

So this race was scheduled to start at 7:30am, but we had to arrive in the corrals no later than 7:00am. And because there were almost 15,000 people running it took me (who was lined up somewhere near the middle) 13 minutes just to cross the start. That mean almost a full hour of standing and waiting. Below freezing.

Not happy. I brought my angry eyes. And a weird shaped head.

Waiting in the corral

Finally, we began.

I'm not going to go into every twist and turn of the race, but I'll call out a few highlights.

The first six miles were in the Park, and my feet were frozen for the first three. From 3-5, my feet and hands were then tingling with pain. This was somewhat a cause for concern, but more a cause for general crankiness up and around my general direction. Somewhat tempering the crankiness was that I noticed how many amazing spectators there were who came out despite the gross temperature! Thank you to all the cheerleaders! Honestly, there were so many most people for this race than for Miami, and I really noticed it. Every single person who holds a sign or calls out something positive can truly help a runner. Keep that in mind!

I started at a good pace, but never fell into a grove like I normally do around miles 4-5 in a race. We left the park after the 10K mark and headed down through Times Sq. A really nice scene, but I remember last year feeling so free and light and warm whereas this year I was just kind of pushing to muddle through.

In Time Sq between miles 7 and 8 a group of my girlfriends were there to cheer me on, and that gave me a much-needed boost.

Miles 8 - 12 were along the West Side Highway. Last year I found this a very quick stretch, but this year I truly was hurting. I ran into Coach Scott from Team For Kids training who ran with me for a few minutes. We chatted (which made me feel better with the distraction!) and he encouraged me to try to PR by running sub-9 min miles the rest of the way. 

He also said to me, "Um, you also should get some water. Because you're sweating a lot. Like, a lot lot." Yep, I have now shocked the Head Coach of a major running team with  my copious sweating. I am a disgusting freak of nature and I have come to terms with it.

Normally, I could have pushed for that PR because I do have the capacity from my training to run a few miles under 9:00min per mile pace. But the tightness was preventing me from dialing it up. 

Although when I read other blogs I honestly don't care so much about people's splits...I've included them for your reference. You don't care. I don't care that you don't care. Enjoy:

5K: 29:22 (average 9:27 min/mile)
10K: 58:28 (average 9:22 min/mile)
15K: 1:26:57 (average 9:10 min/mile)
20K: 1:55:18 (average 9:05 min/mile)
FINISH: 2:01:24 (Overall average 9:16 min/mile)

So try as I may, I just could not break that 9:00 average pace. 

Around mile 12 we entered the tunnel and there was a lot of "echo!!" and "wooo!" just like last year. With 800 meters to go (and a sign explaining as such), we were out of the tunnel into the light and nearing the finish line near the South Street Seaport.

I pushed as hard as I could, and as I rounded the final corner for those last few yards to the end, I saw my cheering squad again. I honestly wanted to cry because my legs felt so tight. Seeing them made me so much happier as I barreled over that finish line with my face twisted in pain and my body ready to rebel against me. 

Stolen photo from the finish line of me faking happiness

I am pleased with my finish time. Don't get me wrong. But I KNOW that I could have PR-ed if I felt better. To have my second-best Half time ever...and to feel like total poop...was an interesting feeling of "wow, I'm getting faster naturally!" and "wow...think of what I could have done...."

So now I'm making a plan to change the negatives and turn my frown upside down. More on that in future weeks...

The post-script of the story is that I finished and I was cold, but the girls had my puffy coat ready and waiting like angels brought from the heavens. We then went into a bar near the end where I could warm up and revel in my accomplishment with some St. Patrick's Day debauchery.

I tried to correct for red eye and it made me look soul-less and crazy. I left it as such.
ME WITH MY CHEERING SQUAD: Silvia, Nicole, Nicole (yes another one) and Betsy!

10:30am is an appropriate time to start drinking, right?

Bangers & Mash with a beer. THE PERFECT St. Patrick's Day post-race brunch!
It's better tasting than looking, I assure you.

So there ends my story.I wish I could be more positive for you, but I always promise to keep it real.

...So real, that I will admit that instead of going home and resting after the race I instead stayed out for 11 more hours, pausing from drinking and eating only to go to a NYSC and quickly shower and change in their locker room. So. Damn. Classy.

Admit it: If you got this far, you are now more impressed that I drank for 11 hours than the fact that I ran a Half. Fact.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Gift Every Little Girl Dreams Of

If you missed my Facebook and Instagram post on the topic, thank goodness you've tuned in.

My friends Monica and Bella have bestowed upon me -- as congratulations for #actually running a Marathon, my very own Run, MeriG. Run bobble-head.

She looks like me except for the fact that she has a tummy that allows her to run in a sports bra only as a top. We can all dare to dream!

It's awesome and amazing and I love it oh, so very much!

Monica has been trying to get into this blog for a while now. She chases me down and tells me quotes to the tune of, "There is no amount of money you could pay me to run 26.2 miles. I would literally pay someone else to not run 26.2 miles," in the hopes of being published in this find piece of internet genius.

But it took a sweatshop in China to produce a replica of me with a big head and flat abs to finally make it a reality. Well done, Monica and Bella. Well done indeed.

So, with the running.

I'm evidently reprising my 2012 showing this coming Sunday for the NYC Half Marathon. It's a really, really cool route that takes you around Central Park, through a shut-down Times Square, down the Westside Highway and finishes at South Street Seaport. Really fun, really unique and was good times all around last year.

A couple of issues for Sunday though:

Last year it was high 40s/ low 50 degree weather. Delightful! Sunday's forecast has been revised to show a high of 47 for the day. Meaning when we arrive at the starting line at 6:30 am it will be probably near freezing (if not below). Yucky.

Also, I have been a little lax with my normal Half Marathon training because I, you know, RAN A MARATHON 7 WEEKS AGO. My legs are super-duper tight, which I know is not ideal for starting a race. It invites injury and I have to be very careful. I think I've decided to start regularly scheduling sports massages from here on out, because I am plagued with tightness no matter what I do (and yoga just isn't happening as much as I'd like).

Finally, my tummy is "acting up." I want to say "I don't know what to do about it!", but I know exactly what to do about it.

Stop eating so much of this:

I want to go to there.

Hey hotties.

And stop doing so much of this:
[She said as she gets ready to pack up and leave work to attend not 1....not 2....but 3 happy hours. 36 before running a Half Marathon. And no, she will clearly not drink "water." Gross.

But I have 2013 NYC Marathon training (remember that?) this summer and early fall to be "good." Right now I want it all: To be happy and a lil' gross but also to run. Just not always as easy said than done...

I keep reminding myself that I clearly have the capacity to finish. I've done this before. In fact, this will be my eighth official half marathon race (not including that lil' full one I just did!)  Crazy, right?

The reality is that I did a lot of these halves before I was actually very serious about running. I completed one a year from 2008 - 2011 whereupon after completing the 4th one I decided to pursue running the NYC Marathon in 2011 (remember that?). With each race, with the exception of one (which I was using as a training run for NYC 2012), I have gotten a Personal Record time (PR). Without really trying....just improving with experience and time.

My ultimate was Brooklyn last year: 1:58:48. An absurd time for me. Absolutely absurd. Makes me want to puke a little bit just thinking about how fast I was that day.

And the thing is that tomorrow I don't think I'll even come close. And it's frankly a little weird going into a race being 100% sure that you won't beat your best time.

But I have to remember that I can just run. I don't have to "race" -- against anyone else or against even myself.

I can just run. [Repeating this to myself...to convince myself...]

I can just run, and I will just revel in experiencing the unique moments in life that happen only when you do this crazy running "thing." Things like this:

Photo Credit: http://marathon.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/15/how-to-watch-the-nyc-half/?src=twrhp

I'll enjoy the flat course on a "crisp" day even if I'm running slow. And I'll relish in experience the moment with my friends who are also running -- including my friend Sarah who is signed up for her very first Half (way to go Sarah! yeehaw!)

I'm competitive and I like to demonstrate improvement and betterment in all that I do. But sometimes? It's okay to have fun. As I write this I know that I'm convincing only myself. You, dear reader, frankly don't give a damn. But you know what? I feel like we've made a lot of progress today during this little online therapy session, so thanks for indulging me.

After I run, I have a group of friends ready to celebrate both the run and the Irish Saint Patrick with lots of the aforementioned foods above and lots of the aforementioned beverages so depicted. And I'll have another cool medal to add to my collection and an 8th race under my belt.

It's no bobble head (NOTHING IS)...but it's still a very, very cool thing to have.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Doesn't it mean Saint Diego?

It's snowy and windy today throughout the Northeast. Facebook and Instagram are inundated with friends complaining about noting the less-than-ideal weather conditions that have plagued us throughout these first couple months of the new year.

It is especially sad for me, however, because I just got back from a long-weekend vacation to visit my dear friend Lauren in San Diego.

"Mmm. San Diego. Drink it in, it always goes down smooth. Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diago, which of course in German means 'a whale's vagina'." - Ron Burghundy

Lauren and I at the San Diego Zoo. This is the one and only appropriate slash normal photo of us for the entirety of the trip.

In San Diego, it was like this:

The whole time.

We went kayaking:

And we saw tons of sea lions!! 

Yo, New York. I'm really happy for you, and Imma let you finish...but San Diego has my favorite animal OF ALL TIME. 

We also went to the zoo and saw a lot of up close and personal action with the animals!

Being groped by monkeys

Straight chillin' with seals
About to throw a three-point shot with a panda while bein' watched by OTHER pandas

"Panda Watch! The mood is tense; I have been on some serious, serious reports but nothing quite like this. I, uh, Ching King is inside right now. I tried to get an interview with him, but they said, 'No, you can't do that, he's a live bear, he will literally rip your face off.'" - Brian Fantana

Overall, just such a wonderful, wonderful visit. When Lauren and I are together, we just can't help but be ridiculous. Ridiculousness just permeates throughout us and around our general vicinity. It's pretty amazing to witness.

Lauren is doing a lot of really cool stuff in San Diego. Namely, she is getting her Master's Degree WHILEST teaching and is also the Director of Communications for this amazing organization called AMPA (American Military Partners Association). They're doing wonderful work, and she is a huge part of it.

But I digress.

Aside from her crazy busy life out on the West Coast, she has caught the bug. The running bug, that is. And I couldn't be more delighted.

Lauren has always been super supportive of me and my crazy running ways, but perhaps could not understand it herself. But she's getting there and is well on her way to full on addicted runner status! She's part of a running group and is now training for her first half marathon

I got the pleasure of joining Lauren and her running group early last Sunday morning. Coming from New York, where I wimpily have been relegated to the treadmill the last few weeks, these are the tough winter running conditions that San Diegans must deal with:

Yay Lauren! Yay Lauren's friend! They ran their longest run EVER on Sunday: 7 miles!!! Way to go Ladies!!!

And, yes, you do have a right to hate them. But it got me to thinking. Where we run does have such an impact on how we run. And on how we enjoy our runs.

I think there is a bit of an element of needing to feel pain to truly feel the joy when it comes to running. Anyone who enjoys this individualistic sport can attest that somedays you have great runs and somedays you have horrible ones. And this isn't just about the weather. Tummy troubles, muscle soreness, or just general "blah"-ness can make or break your workout. And while you can try to do what you can to make the experience more pleasant (good accessories and clothing, eating the right foods, downloading the right music, finding the best running buddies...), often your good days versus your bad are out of your control.

Like the weather. Can't control that much, can you?

But it's those bad days that make the good ones just so much better. Let me ask anyone who's lived in the Northeast: Is there anything better than a spring day after a long, hard, snowy, gross winter? No. No, there isn't.

"You're so wise. You're like a miniature Buddha, covered in hair."

And while living in San Diego would be amazing (seriously), I guess one could argue that you don't get that same "yaaaaaaay!" feeling in spring that you do in a more "drastic" environment. It makes the sweet that much sweeter when you miss it a little.

But they DO have In-N-Out so really...no contest. San Diego for the win.

But nothing can be more drastic than what Lauren's partner Christie -- a fellow runner -- is experiencing now.  

Skyping with a laughing Christie!

Christie has to complete her runs in a treadmill. In Afghanistan. You think your cold-weather winter running is bad? You're sad that it's a little too humid out? Or that you have to carry a water bottle because they shut the fountains off? Yeah, it sucks. It does!

But just think....you could always have to run on a treadmill......In AFGHANISTAN. 

Food for thought, huh?

When Christie gets back, I was thinking bout how sweet her runs are going to be. Whether she runs outdoors or in, in good weather or bad, she will savor the experience. And I can't wait to do a long run with her sometime soon.

"I miss your scent. I miss your musk!"

And so, whether we're soaking up the sun in Cali, fighting a deep freeze in Boston, battling the humidity of Florida, trudging through the slush on the New York City streets, or fighting a freaking war in freaking Afghanistan... all we can do is make the most of our runs every day. And just value the good ones when they come along.

And remember that people are freaking fighting wars in Afghanistan. Put on your big girl pants and enjoy your run!

"You know, times are changing. Ladies can do stuff now and you're going to learn how to deal with it."

Christie told me that there are a few people who have been reading Run, MeriG. Run. from her Base in the 'Stan.

So, if you're reading, I'd like to say: Hi There! and, from the bottom of my heart, I'd like to Thank you for your service. We appreciate you and we are thinking about you back home. 

And I'd encourage my Run, MeriG. Run family to think about Christie and the other astounding, strong, amazing men and women. And their astounding, strong, amazing partners back home. And while the weather out side is frightful, and whether you're running on the street, or trudging on the treadmill, or even just sitting and watching TV on your damn couch...think about how sweet things really are.

Spring will come soon enough.

Stay Classy.